Tuesday, July 6, 2010

CS4HS: helping high school teachers reach their potential

Computer science is a tough field to teach, especially in the high school level. Not only do you need to persuade teenagers that coding isn’t too geeky to attempt, but since CS is a growing field, it’s hard for teachers to keep up with all the latest techniques and computing the tools. To help teachers face these challenges, we’re funding a program called Computer Science for High School (CS4HS). CS4HS is a workshop for high school and middle school computer science teachers that introduces new and exciting concepts in computing and how to teach them. The ultimate goals are to “train the trainer,” develop a thriving community of high school CS teachers, and spread the word about the awe and beauty of computing.

This summer, we’re funding 20 workshops at colleges across the U.S. and will sponsor another 14 in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. If each workshop in the U.S. has an average of 20 teachers in attendance, and each of them teaches 90 students in a year*, that means that the workshops have the potential to make a difference for 36,000 students—an important start.

We had the chance to attend a CS4HS workshop in our own backyard this week. UC Berkeley’s CS4HS highlighted hands-on skills that teachers can take directly back to the classroom. Twenty local math and CS teachers had a chance to share tips and best practices around teaching CS, and created a solid foundation for a community. One of the most popular sessions over the two days was a demo of Scratch, a popular programming language geared towards K-12 students that makes it easy to create interactive stories, animations, games, music and art. Attendees also had the opportunity to form the Golden Gate chapter of the Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA).

Although the summer workshops are just getting started, they're already making a difference for teachers. Emmanuel Onyeador, who teaches AP CS at Oakland Technical High School, told us: “CS4HS is the missing link—as computer science teachers, you find yourself isolated in your classroom. When I sit here I find that we’re all talking about the same issues and the same type of students. What I bring back to my classroom will make a big difference.”


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